LCBO Vintages release – February 4, 2012

Wines made in California from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape are featured in this weekend’s Vintages release.

This is fitting when we consider we are starting to rise out of the low end of the annual sales volume cycle for Vintages and California red wines represent the largest volume segment of all wine regions for the Vintages program.

California Cabernet Sauvignon delivered total sales of $33.1 million in 2010-11 (8.6% of total Vintages sales) compared with sales of $17.0 million for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the second place sub-segment in the Vintages sales volume sweepstakes.

What better way to kick-start the return to growth after the post-Christmas doldrums?  There are a couple of value wines in the Cabernet Sauvignon feature and this is good news.  Otherwise, many of the wines offered are very good but they don’t meet the value threshold so don’t get my nod.

At the other end of the Vintages volume spectrum is an interesting selection of wines from Greece in a Greek Revival sub feature in this release.

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and there is a small sub-feature of gifts for this special day – one of which is an exceptional sparkling rosé (natch…).  I have picked this wine and two other sparkling wines in an otherwise United Nations of producing countries on this week’s list of values.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Jackson Triggs Entourage Silver Series Brut Méthode Classique 2006

The first sparkling wine of my selection is a fine, bottled-fermented blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay base wines. This wine was aged in bottle for 3 years and thus displays the characteristic brioche nose of a traditional method sparkler. The nose and palate show bright citrus and green apple aromas and flavours with crisp acidity and slight stony texture.  The finish is long and clean.  This is a very fine value.

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $22.95 per bottle

Greece, Santorini– AOQS Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini 2010

Assyrtiko is an exceptional grape.  Oz Clarke describes it as possessing “steely, minerally fruit, high acidity and good length.”  It sounds like the perfect food wine and it is an ideal match with roast chicken or shellfish. The Sigalas Assyrtiko is a classic example of what this grape can deliver.  It is intense with loads of lemon, stone fruit and spice with flinty minerals.  There is good body and assertive acid throughout the palate – this wine will age well for the next few years.  If you are unfamiliar with wines made from this grape I encourage you to buy a couple of bottles this weekend.  You will become an instant believer.

Extra dry, white wine – $21.95 per bottle (Greek Revival feature wine)

Argentina, Mendoza – Don Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Malbec 2008

Another very good value, this wine.  It is an intense, well-structured wine that will be best in a couple of years’ time.  There is ripe stewed plum, blackberry, some chocolate and spice on the palate, accompanied by firm tannins and bright acid.  This wine was oak-aged for 12 months but the wood lends complexity and texture without upsetting the balance.  The finish is long. While the alcohol is a lofty 14.5% it sits well on the structured frame of this wine.  Serve with grilled red meats.

Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

Chile, Limari Valley – Maycas del Limari Especial Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

One of three Cabernet Sauvignons on this week’s recommended list, this is the best buy of the lot.  This is a ripe, balanced wine with intense cassis and black berry fruit, dusty tannins and bright acid.  There is sound evidence of oak ageing with some vanilla and light smoke, but the oak lends complexity without affecting the fruit-forward character on nose and palate. The finish is long. This wine will serve well for the next five years.  Enjoy with a grilled rib-eye.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

California, Anderson Valley – Roederer Estate Brut Rosé

Here we have another cool-climate beauty from Roederer Estate in Mendocino County.  This is a classic rosé in every way: pale salmon colour, leesy, citrus, berry nose, flinty minerals with persistent mousse on the palate and a long, crisp finish. It’s a bit pricy for a California traditional-method sparkling wine but it’s worth the price for a Valentine’s Day celebration.

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $35.95 per bottle (Valentine’s feature wine)

There are two runners’-up this release:

Italy, Piedmont – DOCG Moscato d’Asti Ghione Piccole Gioie 2010

Moscato d’Asti is something everyone loves, once they have experienced its fresh, sweet, aromatic palate.  This wine should not be confused with its country cousin, Asti (Spumante), the cheap, tank-method sparkling wine that most of us associate with Friday night parties at university.  Moscato d’Asti is an elegant, lightly-spritzed wine made from the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape, with low alcohol, low pressure in the bottle and intense perfume and delicate mouth feel. This version has delightful spice and honey on the palate and balanced acid and sugars.  Buy lots!

Sweet, frizzante wine – $15.95 per bottle

California Napa Valley – Duckhorn Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Duckhorn is a 1970’s vintage Napa startup that has developed a solid reputation for solid, tannic Merlots. The fact that its Merlots are so distinctive has pushed its Cabs into the background, but this is not to diminish their quality and character.  Decoy is the entry-level line in the Duckhorn range and this wine demonstrates you don’t need to get a bank loan to enjoy fine quality Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It is aged in oak but similar to the Frog’s Leap below, we have here a fruit-forward wine that garners complexity from the wood without losing its fruit.  This is a full-bodied wine with grainy tannins and lots of juicy acid.  The finish is long and spicy. Drink now and over the next 5 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $32.95 per bottle (California Cab feature wine)

And there is a Collector’s Item:

California, Napa Valley – Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Frogs’ Leap started life in the 1970’s as a part-time venture of two then-like-minded men, Larry Turley and John Williams.  Williams was the wine maker at Stag’s Leap at the time and the property they used was a one-time frog farm (?) owned by Turley. Turley went on to build his cult-status winery on the frog farm and Williams moved on to become full-time owner of F-L.  In its early day the Frog’s Leap brand was better known for its whimsical approach to the business than its wines.  While the wines have developed into iconoclasts – for Napa Valley, at least – known for elegance, fruit-expression and value, the whimsy is still there (consider its sweet Riesling, Frögenbeerenauslese, or its web site www.frogsleap.com for instance).  This Cab is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is lean, balanced and correct. Williams uses wood mainly for texture not flavor and this wine shows bright cassis, spice and red cherry aromas and flavours. The fruit is concentrated, the tannins are grippy and the acid is bright.  This wine will evolve with time and should be cellared for the next 2-3 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $58.95 per bottle (California Cab feature wine)

 à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2012.

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Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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